Minster opened last season with many new starters after losing several key players to graduation from the 2017 Division VII state championship squad.
The goals were high for the young Wildcats: not only make another deep playoff run, but have a better finish in Midwest Athletic Conference play after losing four games each of the previous two years.
The squad was able to hit the first goal but didn’t quite hit the second.
Minster finished regular season 7-3 and earned its fifth consecutive playoff berth. The postseason run ended in the second round, though, with a two-touchdown loss to Convoy Crestview.
Minster started the year without half of its starters from the 2017 state championship game, and coach Geron Stokes said the new players had to prove themselves entering what was his sixth year at the helm.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Stokes said. “We’ve still got to become a team. We’re 55 guys who really care about each other right now. How we handle adversity and bumps in the road will be critical. How we handle wins will be critical. How we handle losses will be critical. We’ll see as they steer their own path.”
The 2018 path started like many other recent ones — with a win over neighboring rival Fort Loramie. The Wildcats beat the Redskins 34-14 in Fort Loramie. They took a 20-7 lead by halftime and then added one touchdown in each the third and fourth quarters to secure the victory.
Minster racked up 382 yards of offense in the season-opening win. Junior quarterback Jacob Niemeyer threw for 185 yards and three touchdowns in his first game as a starter and ran for 77 yards. Junior running back Alex Schmitmeyer — another first-year starter — ran for 109 yards and two TDs.
Minster wrapped up nonconference play with a 39-26 home victory over Covington in Week 2. The Wildcats built a 27-6 lead by the middle of the second quarter and cruised from there. The Buccaneers scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes to narrow the final score.
Minster had 431 yards of offense, with Niemeyer throwing for 267 and Schmitmeyer running for 151.
The squad kept the winning streak going by opening MAC play with a 28-22 win over Fort Recovery at Memorial Stadium. The Indians took a 22-20 lead early in the fourth quarter, but August Boehnlein scored on a 9-yard pass from Niemeyer with 54 seconds left. Niemeyer then threw a two-point conversion pass to Trent Roetgerman to cap off the victory.
Minster lost 31-10 at Coldwater in Week 4. The Cavaliers built a 28-7 lead in the second quarter, but the Wildcats pulled to within 28-20 early in the fourth. Coldwater — which outgained Minster 460 yards to 263 — added a late field goal to cap off the win.
Minster’s defensive struggles continued in Week 5 at home against Parkway — but its offensive struggles did not. After the Panthers tied Minster 21-21 right before halftime, the Wildcats opened the second half with four consecutive touchdowns and ran away to a 62-35 win.
Niemeyer threw for 202 yards and one touchdown against Parkway and rushed for 112 yards and four touchdowns. Broc Miller ran for 190 yards and four TDs in the win. The Wildcats gave up 348 yards to Parkway in what was one of its best offensive performances of the season.
The Wildcats started slow against another struggling MAC team in Week 6 but pulled away late for a 35-14 win at Delphos St. John’s. The squad led 21-14 at halftime and scored one touchdown in each the third and fourth quarters to win comfortably. The Wildcats had 453 yards of offense while St. John’s had 342.
Minster lost 34-14 at St. Henry in Week 7. The Redskins scored the first four touchdowns and controlled the game until Minster scored a pair of TDs in the last three minutes. St. Henry outgained Minster 470 yards to 251.
The Wildcats gave a better defensive showing in Week 8 at home against Marion Local but lost 7-6. Both squads scored their lone touchdowns in the first quarter, and a missed extra point by Minster prevented the game from going into overtime. The Wildcats had 263 yards of offense while the Flyers had 199.
Minster then earned a 32-0 victory at Versailles in Week 9. The squad scored all five of its touchdowns in the first three quarters and amassed 383 yards while holding the Tigers to 154. Niemeyer threw for 169 yards and three touchdowns while Schmitmeyer ran for 166 and two TDs.
The Wildcats closed out regular season with a 25-15 win over New Bremen in Week 10 in Minster. The Wildcats scored the first three touchdowns and cruised from there. Niemeyer threw for 84 yards on a rainy night and ran for 29, while Schmitmeyer ran for 136 and three TDs and Miller ran for 102 and one TD.
Minster finished third in Division VII, Region 28 and opened the playoffs with a 51-6 win over Riverside at home. The Wildcats took a 37-0 lead by halftime and racked up 445 yards while holding the Pirates to 136.
The Wildcats then fell to Crestview in Wapakoneta in a rematch of a close second-round playoff game the squad won in 2017. The teams were tied 14-14 at halftime, but the Knights scored two touchdowns in the second half to run away. Crestview had 324 yards of offense while the Wildcats had 199.
Niemeyer finished the season with 1,832 passing yards and 15 TDs and 692 rushing yards and six TDs. Schmitmeyer had 1,094 rushing yards and 20 rushing TDs.
Boehnlein was named first team all-MAC after the season as a linebacker while Cody Frericks was named first team as an offensive end. Schmitmeyer and Mike Ketner were selected to second team.
The Wildcats will open the 2019 season on Aug. 30 at home against Fort Loramie.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.